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‘Cheney Praises McChrystal’

The headline says it all. Smack in a middle of his latest FOX News torture apologia, ex-Veep Cheney says President Obama would be “hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal” to lead the forces in Afghanistan.

Oh, and for good measure, Max Boot and Charles Krauthammer approve, too.

Coming from Cheney, who has spent the last month condoning torture, or so-called “harsh interrogation techniques,” of detainees in his administration’s GWOT (global war on terror), this statement is quite apropos. Too bad the perverse joke will be lost on most people reading the mainstream news accounts of Gen. McChrystal’s ascension this week. To read it, McChrystal is one resounding chord in the evolving ballad of the new Army versus the Old, the “fresh eyes”  versus the crusty cataracts, conventional versus asymmetric. McChrystal “gets it,” all the cool COIN blogs say. McKiernan — he was a stand-up guy — just didn’t.

Day two into this story and The New York Times is talking about McChrystal’s iPod and “encyclopedic” knowledge of terrorists, while WaPo talks about his “exhaustive energy” and being “big into road marching” in the 1980’s. Thankfully, the “scary smart” moniker has already done it’s rounds, for now. Both reports acknowledge the general’s role in the Pat Tillman cover-up might strain upcoming confirmation hearings.

But seeing that the whole of Washington is up to its very eyeballs in torture memos, torture hearings and the expected release of torture photos,  one would expect the major papers of record to talk about long-standing accusations of torture practiced by an covert elite task force headed up by one Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Sure they nibble at the edges — WaPo calls him a “manhunter,” who must transcend the “perception that he is, at his core, an Army Ranger, an elite practitioner of rapid-fire raids intended to ‘find, fix, finish’ the enemy.” Sounds like a Schwarzenegger film. The NYT admits, “Most of what General McChrystal has done over a 33-year career remains classified, including service between 2003 and 2008 as commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, an elite unit so clandestine that the Pentagon for years refused to acknowledge its existence.”

But what the blogs have been talking about at length and what the mainstreamers seem to be afraid to acknowledge, is that McChrystal can be placed at the very center of the controversy the Obama Administration is now wrestling with and Cheney seeks to defend:  the torture and abuse — sanctioned and delegated from the top — of battlefield detainees throughout the GWOT theater under President Bush. It doesn’t take long to click through and read in-depth accounts of the goings-on under McChrystal’s special operations command in The Atlantic (May 2007) and Esquire (August 2006).

Just a taste from Richardson’s piece:

This was Camp Nama, the home of Task Force 121, the Special Ops team that chased Osama bin Laden and caught Saddam Hussein and would ultimately locate and kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-described leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. It was Rumsfeld’s baby, the Platonic ideal of his fast and mobile army. From its size to its mission, everything about it was and remains an official secret. (Snip)

It was a point of pride that the Red Cross would never be allowed in the door, Jeff says. This is important because it defied the Geneva Conventions, which require that the Red Cross have access to military prisons. “Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. ‘Will they ever be allowed in here?’ And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in — they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators.”Given Task Force 121’s history, that was a remarkable promise. Formed in the summer of 2003, it quickly became notorious. By August the CIA had already ordered its officers to avoid Camp Nama. Then two Iraqi men died following encounters with Navy Seals from Task Force 121 — one at Abu Ghraib and one in Mosul — and an official investigation by a retired Army colonel named Stuart Herrington, first reported in The Washington Post, found evidence of widespread beatings. “Everyone knows about it,” one Task Force officer told Herrington. Six months later, two FBI agents raised concerns about suspicious burn marks and other signs of harsh treatment. Then the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that his men had seen evidence of prisoners with burn marks and bruises and once saw a Task Force member “punch [the] prisoner in the face to the point the individual needed medical attention.”

Not to diminish it’s importance, but why the NYT and WaPo would think the Pat Tillman cover-up might be  more of an obstacle to McChrystal’s confirmation than stuff like this is beyond me. Really. I feel like I am missing something here. Perhaps it’s simply because the anointed, conventional media filters on the Right and Left like this guy, and have already embraced a narrative of why he was chosen: because he “gets” the “new war” and that the “new” President is “changing course” to overcome the quagmire that “Af-Pak” became under his predecessor.

That McChrystal himself might carry the ugly baggage from that predecessor’s policies just doesn’t fit the script.

about the author

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a contributing editor at TAC and co-host on the Empire Has No Clothes podcast. Follow her on Twitter @VlahosAtQuincy.

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